Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Discuss Qatar Row

Posted June 28, 2017

In elevating his son Prince Mohammed to next in line to the throne, Saudi King Salman approved a strategic realignment with the USA under Donald Trump and handed sweeping new powers to the 31-year-old who has been highly critical of regional rival Iran.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively, Press TV reported.

Trump and the crown prince additionally "discussed efforts to achieve a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and ways to further deepen economic cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia".

The recasting of the line of succession marks the first real test of the ruling Al Saud family's ability to manage the inevitable generational shift from the sons of Saudi Arabia's founder to his grandsons, said Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

"MbS' new and stronger position removes one of the clouds hanging over the government's reform plans", according to Jason Tuvey, Middle East Economist at Capital Economics.

The website of English-language news agency Press TV ran a lengthy article that denounced Mohammed bin Salman's hand in policy, including the "bloody military campaign" in Yemen and the "extensive and jarring economic shake-up" now underway in Saudi Arabia.

Footage aired on Saudi television channels showed the bearded Prince Mohammed kissing the hand of his ousted cousin Mohammed bin Nayef and kneeling in front of the older Prince, who patted his shoulder to congratulate him.

Prince Mohammed is now defence minister, giving him command of one of the world's biggest arms budgets and making him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia's military adventure in Yemen.

McDonalds KSA is owned by Mishaal Bin Khalid al Saud, another prince in the huge House of Saud.

A royal order said his appointment was endorsed by 31 of 34 members on the Council of Allegiance, which decides on succession issues.

"A lot of people are happy that a younger generation is coming to power, but those who are upset are the older generation, no doubt about it, who are not to used to this kind of dramatic change", Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies with extensive contacts in the royal family, told the Times.

Meanwhile, the June 21 reshuffle sparked speculation on Twitter about a possible future abdication by the octogenarian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in favour of his son, whose youth and dynamism have appealed to younger Saudis who make up the majority in society and are often eager for change. Salman stripped his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, of the title, which is next in line to the Saudi throne.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, there had been some concerns from market watchers that if Mohammed bin Nayef ascended the throne, then MbS' reform agenda could come to a halt.